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Is Michael Jung the greatest rider ever?

Is Michael Jung the greatest rider ever?

12/02/2019 at 19:10Updated 12/02/2019 at 19:11

In French, eventing is known as le complet – ‘complete.’ An apt name for a sport requiring riding skill in cross-country, jumping and dressage. And in recent years, the sport's king has been Germany’s Michael Jung – Olympic, World, European and Grand Slam champion. Now, Jung has had top results in 5*-level show jumping, including this past weekend in Bordeaux. Is Jung the greatest rider ever?

Of course, while some might think so, any such question is almost impossible to answer: too subjective, too broad and too undefined. How can riders in different disciplines be compared, for example, or riders from different eras? How much luck is involved in the serendipitous pairing of the right horse and right rider at the right time?

And in any case Jung is not the first equestrian athlete to have competed at the highest level in more than one discipline. One very notable example, Sir Mark Todd of New Zealand – himself named the Rider of the 20th Century by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) – competed in both eventing and jumping in two Olympics, Seoul in 1988 and Barcelona in 1992. Others who have crossed disciplines include France’s Michel Robert, Colombia’s Juan Carlos Garcia and Sweden’s Peder Fredricson. Jung’s own compatriot and fellow eventer Ingrid Klimke is also capable of riding in dressage at the Grand Prix level. 

Of course, Jung’s eventing career has been affected in recent times by the retirement of or injury to lead horses La Biosthetique-Sam, Fischer Takinou and Fischer Rocana, which may have contributed to a relatively increased focus on jumping. At the same time, the arrival (announced last week) of the talented mount Chipmunk FRH from fellow rider Julia Krajewski is a muscular reinforcement to his string of eventing horses as he looks forward to the 2019 season.

But while Jung was selected to Germany’s Nations Cup jumping team last year in Al-Ain, Abu Dhabi, it is unlikely that he will be featuring regularly in the A-squad (or even B-squad) in the sport for the powerhouse equestrian country any time soon (assuming he wanted to) – even with the absence of top-ranked riders Daniel Deusser and Christian Ahlmann due to conflicts with the German national federation. And in any case, as Michael Jung made clear last year, “I’ve got no plans to stop eventing yet!”

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